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15 May 2008 Edition

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The Offaly Rover

IF YOU search for the song title, The Offaly Rover, on the Irish Times website you find it in three articles on the Thursday after Brian Cowen’s election as Taoiseach, three more in Saturday’s edition and it was still going strong on Monday.
Aside from a relatively interesting piece by Fintan O’Toole in the Weekend section of the Times, coverage of Cowen’s elevation as Taoiseach was a festival of poor journalism: endless references to his singing ability, Offaly GAA and The Offaly Rover, arguably one of the worst county songs in Ireland.
And it wasn’t just Cowen’s elevation that had journalists adopting the attitude of Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel of Simpsons fame.
On Thursday’s RTÉ News at One, David Davin-Power’s ‘analysis’ included the news that Fine Gael TD Paddy Sheehan had complimented new Tánaiste Mary Coughlan on her elevation to Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
“She’s changing her welly boots for the designer shoes of the boardroom”, Sheehan said to which Couglan replied that if Sheehan was ever stuck for a pair of wellys she’d be happy to help him out.’
Oh, how we all laughed. Somewhere in Ireland last week, actual politics might have taken place, but it didn’t make the papers.

TURNING North in the hope of finding some actual news, I was depressed to read Jim Gibney, occasional contributor to this paper, write in the Irish News about Bertie Ahern’s legacy.
Jim argued: “His stewardship of the Southern economy will be marked as an outstanding achievement.”
Under Ahern’s watch the wealthiest 10 per cent of Irish society achieved their highest-ever share of national income at 28.3 per cent. This same small group of people earn almost 13 times more than the least-well-off in our society. We lack investment in education and healthcare but we throw money at consultants and subsidising private sector profits.
The squandering of an historic opportunity to achieve a better, more equal Ireland will be Ahern’s legacy.
Maybe Jim’s omission of these facts was due to pressure of space because republicans know better.

RTÉ’s Questions & Answers on Monday discussed growing opposition to the Lisbon Treaty from farmers.
As is becoming a habit of the programme, there weren’t any ‘No’ advocates on the panel so it was left to Louth Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey to make the most spirited intervention.
Fianna Fáil Chief Whip Pat Carey and Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney were at pains to claim there is no connection between the Lisbon Treaty and the forthcoming WTO talks that are putting the futures of Irish farmers at risk.
It fell to the bould Tomás to point out that, under Article 188 of Lisbon, the Irish veto on WTO agreements would disappear and that the two are in fact inextricably linked.
Carey and Coveney started to shout Tomás down although our friend from Louth was in no mood for being kept quiet. Lord forbid facts should be allowed enter the Lisbon debate
Once John Bowman had restored order he turned to journalist Sarah Burke who had been flicking through her copy of the Forum on Europe guide to the Treaty while the shouting match had been going on.
Burke quietly pointed out that, according to the guide, everything the Sinn Féin councillor had been saying was accurate, neatly shutting up the Carey & Coveney double act.
As Tomás suggested, lads, read the treaty.

FINALLY, Kevin Myers’s column in Tuesday’s Independent was a reminder to Irish women that no matter how far we think we have come, it’s still respectable to hate women. They’ll even give you a column to tell your readers why women can never succeed in the workplace. Because women can’t work in a hierarchy, it seems.
“It is why she-gangs form around certain strong individuals, and why the term ‘bitchiness’ accurately describes how women often behave towards one other – in precisely the same way that female dogs do: they are riven and driven by social insecurity.”
Vile as this is, Myers’s ‘evidence’ is a fascinating insight into a slowly unhinging mind. It is based on a claim that female religious orders were a proto-feminist movement (stick with me on this) and that because there are so many different orders of nuns it proves women can’t work together.
“ its raw and natural state: female society when left to its own devices – fissiparous and organisationally dysfunctional.”
I’m tempted to observe that Geraldine Kennedy must really have messed him up.
Ironically, it appeared on the day of the funeral of Nuala Ó Faoláin, who started out as a journalist and television producer in the male-dominated newsrooms of the 1970s and 1980s and by doing so paved the way for many other women journalists.
Yet even now only two women are editors of national newspapers, Geraldine Kennedy in the Times and Noirín Hegarty at the Sunday Tribune.
As Kevin Myers reminded us, we have a way to go yet.

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